The weathers have warmed and the season’s first bloom is upon us once again. Put away the heavy coats and skis, dust off the gardening tools, throw on these spring-themed tunes and have yourself a hit of fresh air.
Perhaps the most ideal vision of a hippie paradise is the love scene depicted in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1970 film Zabriskie Point. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but let’s just say there’s a whole lotta desert lovin’ goin’ on. And who better to score it than Jerry Garcia and Pink Floyd.
Posted on Dead scholar Blair Jackson’s website is Jerry’s commentary on the lengthy solo guitar improvisation. Imagine being in the room for this one…
“There I was on the old MGM scoring stage where they used to do Gene Kelly musicals and The Wizard of Oz — just me and my electric guitar and a little amplifier,” Garcia remembered. “And Antonioni’s back there [in the control room] with one engineer, and the scene is playing on a huge screen, and I’m picking along, trying to get my ideas. “I sat down and just played, and [Antonioni] said, ‘Oh, I like that very, very much. That’s very, very good.’ And I said, ‘Hey, wait a minute. C’mon, give me a chance!’ And he said, ‘Oh no, no. That’s exactly what I want!’ I wanted so badly to do something good because, well, it was Antonioni for chrissakes! He was satisfied so quickly I didn’t know what to think. I was unhappy about it. I was just getting warmed up and, boom, that was it.”
There’s certain names that seem to appear in nearly every walk of music, and one of those names is Howard Wales. Best known as a collaborator of Jerry Garcia, Wales backed a range of acts including Ronnie Hawkins, the Four Tops, James Brown, as well as an extended stint performing alongside guitarist Harvey Mandel. In 1970, Wales contributed parts to several songs on the Dead’s American Beauty LP and went on to perform a regular Monday night jam sesssion with Garcia at The Matrix in San Francisco. The following year, the duo recorded and released a fusion album titled Hooteroll? featuring a cover art by painting by Abdul Mati Klarwein, known for his famous work that adorns the cover of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew.
Last week I was reminded of this amazing album by none other than my good pal Buddy Miles, who mentioned the Wales/Garcia collabs as his favorite work by Jerry. Featuring several members that would later become the Legion of Mary, Jerry steps out of his element into a space that many say went on to influence the direction the Dead would take in subsequent years. That’s a discussion for another day, but for now dig Jerry’s funked out playing on “South Side Strut.”
It seems as though some people are placed on this earth to fulfill a specific purpose. Often, once that purpose has been fulfilled, the individual is taken from us, serving a nearly prophetic role on this planet. Jerry Garcia is one of those people, and on this day, he would have turned a ripe 70 years old. In celebration, we’ve created a playlist containing some of our all-time favorite Grateful Dead moments. Happy Birthday Jerry!
As Bob Weir said after scattering Jerry’s ashes into the Ganges River in India, “May you have peace, Jerry, and travel to the stars.”
1. Mountains of the Moon (2-22-69)
2. Nobody’s Jam (6-22-73)
3. Eyes of the World (9-7-73)
4. The Other One > (12-31-72)
5. Morning Dew (12-31-72)
6. Playin’ in the Band (3-24-73)
7. Estimated Prophet (12-27-77)
8. Dark Star (6-24-70)
9. Attics of My Life (6-24-70)
10. Dark Star (6-24-70)
11. The Wheel > Jam (10-3-76)
12. Jam > Ship of Fools (6-23-74)
13. Help On the Way > (6-14-76)
14. Slipknot! (6-14-76)
15. Franklin’s Tower (6-14-76)
16. Comes a Time (5-9-77)
“Stella Blue” (10/17/74)
An Elegy for Jerry
Jerry, my friend,
you’ve done it again,
even in your silence
the familiar pressure
comes to bear, demanding
I pull words from the air
with only this morning
and part of the afternoon
to compose an ode worthy
of one so particular
about every turn of phrase,
demanding it hit home
in a thousand ways
before making it his own,
and this I can’t do alone.
Now that the singer is gone,
where shall I go for the song?
Without your melody and tase
to lend an attitude of grace
a lyric is an orphan thing,
a hive with neither honey’s taste
nor power to truly sting.
What choice have I but to dare and
call your muse who thought to rest
out of the thin blue air
that out of the field of shared time,
a line or two might chance to shine —
As ever when we called,
in hope if not in words,
the muse descends.
How should she desert us now?
Scars of battle on her brow,
bedraggled feathers on her wings,
and yet she sings, she sings!
May she bear thee to thy rest,
the ancient bower of flowers
beyond the solitude of days,
the tyranny of hours–
the wreath of shining laurel lie
upon your shaggy head
bestowing power to play the lyre
to legions of the dead
If some part of that music
is heard in deepest dream,
or on some breeze of Summer
a snatch of golden theme,
we’ll know you live inside us
with love that never parts
our good old Jack O’Diamonds
become the King of Hearts.
I feel your silent laughter
at sentiments so bold
that dare to step across the line
to tell what must be told,
so I’ll just say I love you,
which I never said before
and let it go at that old friend
the rest you may ignore.
– Robert Hunter
I apologize for the delayed Jerry week posts—I’ve been deep in the Canadian north with very little internet access the past few days. So for today, we’ll catch up for the last two days with three classic Dead jams. All three versions are worthy of inclusion in any “best ever” discussion and are must-hears for any Dead fan. Primal Dead.
“Terrapin Station” (5/17/77)
“Morning Dew” (6/18/74)
“Dark Star” > “Eyes of the World” (11/11/73)
The recording of Jerry Garcia’s performance at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ on April 10, 1982 opens with the promoter saying “I think you’ll find this a rare musical experience.” But not even he, or even Jerry, could have known just how true that statement would become, for this was the one and only time that Mr. Garcia performed an entire show solo acoustic. There are competing tales as to whether Jerry booked the show solo and then called John Kahn on for the rest of the tour, or if Kahn was supposed to play but was unable to make it. Either way, it’s been said that Jerry felt uncomfortable during the performance and decided not to play publicly by himself ever again. Below, you can hear two cuts—one from the early show and one from the late—displaying Jerry in this intimate setting. A truly rare musical experience, indeed…
MP3: “Reuben and Cherise” (4/10/82)
MP3: “Gomorrah” (4/10/82)
Jerry week continues here at DGB where we’ll be paying tribute on each of the days between. For today’s selection, we turn to the well-known and much-loved version of “Eyes of the World” from October 19, 1974. This was part of a run of shows that sent the Dead on temporary hiatus for the six months that followed, and also acted as the final shows using the legendary Wall of Sound speaker system. This version—which serves as the very first piece of Grateful Dead music that ever graced my ears—is featured in The Grateful Dead Movie, as well as on the So Many Roads Box set. If not for this version of this song, my life would likely have taken a very different path. I owe a great deal to my friend who played it for me on that summer night so many years ago, and to this day it remains one of my all-time favorite pieces of music.
MP3: “Eyes of the World” (10.19.74)
As we continue to celebrate Jerry week over here at DGB, let’s have a listen to something from my favorite Garcia side-project—Legion of Mary. Buried beneath Jerry Garcia’s endless side projects, guest appearances and solo endeavors is the rarely mentioned Legion of Mary featuring Merl Saunders, JGB bassist John Kahn, Martin Fierro on sax and flute along with Ronnie Tutt on drums (who replaced Paul Humphrey in early ’75). The band was short-lived, lasting only from July of ’74 to July ’75, but during that time, the group was a rare force, concocting an infectious blend of jazz, rock and R&B.
Today, we turn to LOM’s cover of “Little Sunflower” taken from Milt Jackson’s 1972 Sunflower release on CTI. This happens to double as one of my favorite pieces of Jerry’s playing and also one of my favorite jazz songs, and to add to that, we have one of the finest possible recordings. Taped by the legendary team of Bob Menke and Louis Falenga, you won’t find much better in the way of audience recordings.
MP3: “Little Sunflower“
Today begins the week of tribute to our fallen hero, Jerry Garcia. It was 69 years ago today that the earth was blessed with this most amazing musical gift and for the entire week we’ll be honoring his legacy. To start, I thought it fitting to revisit the “Playing In the Band” from 11.18.1972 at the Hofheinz Pavilion in Houston, TX. Felt by many to be among the best versions, this 25 minute journey is the capstone on the song’s breakout year. The jam takes a hint from the Interstellar Coltrane-Rashid Ali book, quickly becoming a sonic stew with Jerry’s guitar lines carving strokes of color through your mind. Happy Birthday, old friend!
“In the great forest of music, you, the listener, explore and wander between the trees, until by happy accident you stumble upon a forest glade. There in a beautiful clearing in the woods spread with verdant grass in the sunlight, you stand in awe as the birds sing. Walking carefully toward the center of the clearing you notice an isolated group of delicate small flowers radiant in their perfection and perfect in their radiance. Those flowers, so fragile and insubstantial, so manifest and yet so vulnerable, are the Grateful Dead.” – Jerry Garcia
MP3: “Playing In the Band” (11.18.72)
Stream the show via Archive.org here.